Mauro e il suo triathlon di 7000 km dalla Sardegna a Capo Nord
COUNTRY OF PROVENANCE
Mauro and his record triathlon from Sardinia to Nord Kapp
I met Mauro at one of the events that I organize on Thursday in Milan, where you can meet a mix of travelers and locals with a passion for travelling and foreign languages. He had started to tell me his story over a pint of beer: we both had been in Norway in the summer of 2019, but his way of going there had left me speechless, so I went to the Upcycle – where bike enthusiasts gather – last February 13, and I have listened far and wide to his experience of the last few years.
Mauro has a degree in computer science but has always had a great passion for sport. Almost as a joke, on the push of a friend of his who wanted to do it, he tried a triathlon, with the result of finishing first! From that moment he understood what his mission in life would be. He left the office and decided that he would work for himself, to make his dreams come true, but also for others, to help them make their dreams come true.
First trip. 9000 km pedaling
Mauro’s main dream was to reach the far west of Europe from Italy through the Strait of Gibraltar and then head to the far north, in Norway, all on a bike. His first solo trip by bike led him to circumnavigate the Iberian Peninsula. It lasted 7 months along 9000 km of road, then stopped in Paris where he decided to cultivate one of his passions, cooking, and worked for about 6 months in a restaurant. He was happy with the Parisian experience and life, nevertheless he continued to feel the “call of the north” as he calls it. The interruption of the first trip and the Parisian parenthesis had been a way to take a breath. However, he had had the good fortune to see the sun rise and set for 7 months on his bike, now the desire to see how it would continue to change going up to the north, until it reached the midnight sun grew: “there is no money that can pay such a feeling “, he says.
Second trip. From Sardinia to Norway
He started training more seriously, studying and planning the path to reach his big dream, the far north of Norway. During the planning, however, he realized that getting there by bike did not give him enough adrenaline and then decided to give vent to two other passions: swimming and running.
There is a time of the year when the Arctic Sea has a temperature like the Mediterranean in winter, so the idea of tackling Norway even by swimming seemed to be possible.
Crossing Norway by bike, then swimming and walking requires difficult planning! There are some places where you cannot cycle, 800 tunnels along 750 km cross Norway from south to north! The idea was to reach the Arctic Circle by bike, then swim for 230 km through the Lofoten Islands and finally walk to the North Pole.
The limits to overcome
Embarking on such a journey means going beyond your limits, believing immensely in yourself and in your abilities. Mauro knows his limits and works hard to overcome them, both physically and mentally. The family supported him, he had told his parents about his project a year earlier and despite their worries, he was able to show that he knew what he was going to do, he studied for months. “Crazy is someone who goes without knowing“, instead, Mauro has calculated risks (except jellyfish! Read more later). It is riskier to ride a bike in Milan than swimming in the Arctic, according to him!
The most difficult limit to overcome, however, after having dealt with his own limits and with the initial perplexities of the family, was the judgment of others. Many said to him “you are crazy, why don’t find job like other people?”. He had to build a mental shield to protect himself from what people said, the judgment of others mattered a lot to Mauro. This extreme journey gave him the security to rely more and more on his own judgment and to silence that of others, at least within himself.
From the broken pedal in Sicily to the Norwegian rain
Mauro embarked on this journey alone, but the people he met along the way were a great resource.
He started his journey in Sardinia, then went south to Sicily before heading north. Right at the beginning of the bike trip – while in Sicily – a pedal broke. Fortunately, another cyclist escorted him to the top of a mountain and then another and yet another: they made a relay race to accompany him to the mechanic!
After 10 days he was already in Trentino and, in no time, he passed from 40 degrees in Sicily to 15 in northern Italy. Everything changed, nature was completely different, and this diversity gave him energy.
10 days of rain followed, passing through France and Germany, then Denmark and Sweden to finally reach Norway.
The first day in Norway it rained so much that he could not see the horizon. Nevertheless, it was full summer, the temperature not too harsh, and after so much pedaling he finally arrived at the Arctic Circle!
Swimming in the Arctic Sea
The moment he got into the water was very taugh; the impact was terrible, much more difficult than he imagined. Luckily his friend Lorenzo accompanied him on a dinghy.
There were giant jellyfish, one every two meters. It was hard to concentrate. All this for 230 km!
In Norway the cliffs are sheer, it is difficult to get out of the water. He had a hole in his shoe, but the only option was to keep going, swimming to keep warm.
He visualized in his mind that he was already in Nord Kapp and this gave him the strength to continue.
Then he lived a dense and uninterrupted rainy day. Every 40 minutes he had to get out of the water to recover temperature, take off his wetsuit and warm up by jumping. At 11:30 in the evening the sun finally came out, it was the “golden hour“.
Overtraining tachycardia and salvation in a Norwegian family
Mauro – as I was able to appreciate in my travels – says that the Norwegians are not cold people. Having finished his food in one of the islets of Lofoten, he and Lorenzo realized that the only place to stock up was on the other side of the island. They approached some people to ask for information and they said: “you will never find anything! What are you doing here?”. After listening to Mauro’s story, they admitted that they had never seen a person swimming there! They hosted him and Lorenzo, gave him some food and beds to sleep in. At that point Mauro had a continuous tachycardia for overtraining: resting was a blessing!
“In Norway there is hardly anyone, the more you go north the more people are warm because they are happy to see you,” says Mauro.
The following day the sea was purple, the mood very low, and the weather app gave terrible forecasts: “never look at the weather forecasts!”.
The day that looks like the apocalypse
Mauro collects the mental energies to enter the water again “on a day that looks like the apocalypse”. Lorenzo is his psychological and physical support.
Other unexpected events that happened include tides. Every 5 hours the sea level rises or falls by 5-6 meters. Bringing the dinghy with them, every time they came out of the water they had to dock somewhere, but the cliffs were sheer and the dinghy got a hole just because of the tide.
Mauro is blinded by the desire to end the route, Lorenzo falters, he fears it is an impossible mission!
Fortunately, the two friends receive help from the only inhabitant of the island who had a super adhesive tape with which they could repair the boat.
The last day of swimming
Finally, the last day of swimming. The last kilometer and a half were the coldest, in the most exposed part of the Arctic. Mauro had the current against him, small waves came behind his neck, it was like having ice constantly entering in his back. He couldn’t stop, every lost day was a disaster! His friend Lorenzo was due to leave the next day.
That day he reached his swimming goal. With his face burnt by the cold, that remained purple for a couple of days, he arrived at his destination. Upon his arrival, a group of people gathered on the beach and celebrated him! Then, Mauro and Lorenzo went on to knock on a door, they had to reload all the electronic devices, word of mouth was gigantic! A policewoman opened them and immediately said: “show me the documents! It is not possible to swim across the border!”. Then she hosted them in her house with 30-degree heating and gave them 1.5 kg of chicken each!
Walking, cycling, swimming, are perceived as non-violent means of traveling: you are exposed, vulnerable, and people are more likely to welcome you, they trust you to get closer.
On foot from Lofoten to the North Kapp
The next day Mauro left alone on foot. He could not travel with less than 17 kg on his back because of food supplies and equipment. He walked 35-40 km per day. His feet destroyed; it was constantly raining.
He spent only one day in the company of two people who were walking around Norway.
One of Mauro’s wishes was to see the reindeers, but he was almost forgetting about it, so captured by the challenge with himself and the elements of nature! In the north of Norway, he saw many, it seemed to be in the world of dreams.
The tunnel under the sea
Before the North Pole there is a 7 km tunnel that goes down to 200 meters below sea level. It does like a “V” and at the lowest point, in the center, there is no oxygen! Then it continues uphill for another 3.5 km. There are fans, but when Mauro passed, they were not running. Arriving in the middle of the tunnel on foot, without air, he thought only of pushing on his legs and moving forward. Then the fans finally turned on!
Mauro has the mentality of those who always want to continue, he focuses on what he has, not on what he doesn’t have.
Leaving the tunnel, he was at the limit with food supplies, the next village was 30 km away and he had already covered 40 km that day. Luckily, he met an old lady living in a little house in the middle of nowhere. She decided to host him, and he discovered that she was a well-known artist in Norway! She showed him her sculptures that he found beautiful. This was another travel surprise.
Mauro was the first person to reach the North Cape with a 7000 km triathlon, he could be recognized as the longest triathlon ever done but the World Guinness Record Commission believed that the distance traveled on foot was too short.
Mauro decided to stop there anyway. “If that steel sphere had been a million kilometers farther I would have reached it anyway. It wasn’t fame, wealth, glory or a piece of paper. There is no other thing and no person that could make me happier than that. At that moment I was the richest person in the world. “
Mauro had made real the film that he had projected into his mind countless times and nothing could make him happier. “No-one can tell you where you have to go… only you can decide what your dream is”. This is what Mauro says, we must not seek the approval of others: the greater the effort, sacrifice and suffering to make your dreams come true, the greater the satisfaction and happiness when you reach them. And that happiness stays inside forever.
Mauro used a simple carbon racing bike. It was a forced choice due to the lack of time and he knew that he would go by bike only until the Polar Circle and there would always be cities and villages on the way.
His backpack was 17 kg, with only a change of shoes. During the first trip he realized that after the first 40 km “you bring items just because you’re afraid“, so better get rid of them.
Mauro does not use the computer on his bike for years already, he is able to better connect with himself and nature.
In order to finalize his travel plan, before leaving, he launched a fundraising campaign in which he raised a few thousand euros. In the beginning he wanted to face the swimming part in maximum safety, by hiring a specialized agency that would follow him by boat, but it was too expensive! Plan B was the purchase of the 160 kg inflatable boat and the irreplaceable help of his friend Lorenzo. With that money he managed to pay the bulk of his travel expenses and deal with the crazy prices of Norway. Some sponsors learned of his expedition and decided to supply clothing and supplements.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip to Norway?
In this extreme journey Mauro learned that the impossible is possible.
“What I am and what I believe are more important than the judgment of others,” he says.
Mauro believes in himself and in the universe. The 19,000 km traveled passed between ups and downs, but every time that there was an unexpected event, then there was the “counter” unexpected event that brought things back to order. Is it the power of universe? It gives him confidence to think so.
Today Mauro is a coach, a motivational speaker and an athlete.
I look forward to his next trip! I’m sure he will surprise everyone once again.
Coronavirus update: Mauro had started training on his bike in northern Italy, he managed to get to Switzerland where he was forced to stop for the general lockdown. He produced the video of his triathlon and now that he is studying German.